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Friday, April 17, 2015

Martha Gold mine, Waihi

Imagine having a huge open pit mine gold mine right in town.  The huge hole, known as the Martha Mine, has been giving up it’s precious gold  since it was first discovered on Martha Hill in 1878.  Workers flocked to the area, living in tents and huts, and eventually building small miners cottages.  Martha Mine quickly became a very important mine indeed, producing 174,160kg of gold and over 1,000,000kg of silver up to 1952 when the mine was closed.  There was a workforce of 600 men, which increased to 1500 in the early 1990s with men also working at the stamper battery at Waikino.  In the late 1970s a resurgence in the gold mining industry led to the first major hard rock mining operation to be commissioned.  The open pit was extended in 1997 and the Favona underground mine on the outskirts of town began operation in 2006.  After a recent rockfall work has stopped on the mine until it is cleared up.

P4160029 Martha Mine

P4168743Rockfall in the mine

P4168753
An uncovered mine shaft from a time when mining was underground. The top of which can also be seen in the photo above .

The mine has started being backfilled, as is modem practice these days.  This will prevent subsidence events which have happened in the town over the years which caused substantial damage to parts of the town,  a direct result of unfilled historic workings.  The life of Martha Mine is coming to a close in a few years, and will be turned into a recreational lake. This will happen naturally over 5 years or so, as once the pumps stop operating,  the water level will begin to rise in the open pit.

The Cornish Pumphouse was built in 1903 to house steam engines and pumping equipment to remove the water under the mine, pumping out 7000 litres of water a minute.  It was retired from use when it’s steam power was replaced by electricity, and some years later it was stripped of machinery and left derelict.  Land movement from old mine workings almost brought the historic pumphouse to it’s knees.  But it was saved by an engineering feat in 2006 by moving it 300m to it’s current position.  The building rested on Teflon pads which slid along a stainless steel plate on concrete beams, and moved by hydraulic rams.  That must have been a sight to see indeed.  Now strengthened and braced, it should stand proudly for many more years.

P4160028 Cornish Pumphouse

The  Poppet Head is an exact replica of those used in the early underground mining at Martha Mine.  Erected over a vertical shaft, it had a steel cage which carried men, materials and the quartz rock by a winch motor.  Bell signals were made to the operator by those working underground at various levels.

P4168757 Replica Poppet Head

Members of the local Lions group were busy attaching 400 or so named metal poppies to the fenceline surrounding the mine, in time for Anzac Day celebrations, one for each person from who went overseas in WW1.  Many of them were miners and went on to the battlefield of Arras where their skills were used to dig tunnels.  The Lions members were on the path side of the fence and were busily attaching the poppies.  Two maintenance men from the mine were on the dangerous side of the fence, and were kitted out in hard hats and attached by safety lines to the fence.  They wouldn’t be allowed to work on the mine side of the fence  without using their safety equipment,  they told us.

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P4168746 Poppies for Anzac Day

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